Now beginning its fourth year, the D-Lab Scale-Ups fellowship program has supported 18 social entrerpreneurs working on three continents in sectors including health, energy, agriculture, mobility, water, and waste recycling. The fellowship, originally open only to graduates of MIT, has also provied fellowships to four members of the International Development Innovation Network.
Each year, Eric Reynolds who manages the program, brings together past and current fellows for a retreat and to attend the MIT Scaling Development Ventures conference. In true D-Lab fashion, the retreat kicked off with a community potluck dinner at Eric's house followed by an intensive day of learning and sharing from each other, from D-Lab staff, and from invited guests.
The first session of the day offered frameworks for making decisions about where to manufacture parts for global products - including strategies for balancing cost, quality and local capability building. In small groups, fellows, staff, and guest focused on the decisions related to manufacturing location, cost, quality, and capability building currently faced by the fellows. The groups discussed how to weigh outsourcing and local production and/or assembly, evaluating quality assurance, and scaling up production. For this session, the fellows were joined by Bob Nanes, a consultant and former vice president of International Development Enterprises; Gwyn Jones, MIT D-Lab instructor and formerly of Merlin Bicycles; Jose Pacheco, director of the MIT Masters in Manufacturing Engineering program; Matt McCambridge, MIT D-Lab instructor, formerly of Whirlwind Wheelchair; Nate Deschaine, senior mechanical engineer for Dragon Innovation; and Kate Bergeron, MIT D-Lab visiting lecturer and vice president for gardware egineering at Apple.
Over lunch, fellows had a chance to introduce their ventures to members of the MIT Practical Impact Alliance (PIA). PIA member organizations include Unilever, World Vision, Ajinomoto, Danone, Greif, Johnson & Johnson, Grameen Foundation, Melton Foundation, Community Enterprise Solutions and Greenlight Planet.
In the afternoon, Joseph Steig from Long River Ventures and Kasia Stockniol from Acumen joined the group to discuss how the fellows could work to make their ventures both more attractive and visible to impact investors and other funders.
Fellows participating in this year's retreat included Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola of Wecyclers, Zehra Ali of Ghonsla, Carl Jensen of Zasaka, Sidhant Pai of Protoprint Fair Trade Filament, Kwami Williams of MoringaConnect, Danielle Zurovcik of WiCare, and Shawn Wen who helped develop the PortaTherm. Read about all D-Lab Scale-Ups fellows here.
About the D-Lab Scale-Ups fellowship program
The MIT D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellowship offers one year of support to social entrepreneurs bringing hardware-based, poverty-alleviating products and services to market at scale. Alumni of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and members of the International Development Innovation Network are eligible to apply. Scale-Ups Fellows receive a $20,000 grant, tailored mentorship, skills-building, and networking opportunities.
Fellows enter the program with a compelling proof-of-concept, and a few to thousands of units tested or sold. During the 12-month fellowship, entrepreneurs work to retire risk in technical feasibility and market viability, thereby positioning their ventures for investment, partnership, and growth.